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Arnold Tijerina

Arnold Tijerina President & Corporate Storyteller

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How One Person Can Make A Difference: A Lesson in Customer Advocacy


While the public is constantly barraged with negativity pertaining to car dealers, there are many instances that go ignored or are simply passed over. Let’s face it… the media (and a lot of websites/industry blogs) are typically more focused on perpetuating the stereotype of dealers as the “bad guys.” There are entire companies that have built their business model on this very premise. Anyone in the auto industry knows that you simply cannot do business that way and survive, yet stories and blog articles surface constantly about some random car dealer screwing a customer, refusing to fulfill promises, or taking advantage. Well, I’m here to tell you a story that might just make you like car dealers a little more.

Part of my responsibilities with DealerKnows Consulting involves monitoring and assessing the performance of ISMs at dealerships. This service compliments DealerKnows’ services by providing ongoing and consistent supervision, assisting management in staying aware of BDC agent/ISM performance, as well as giving the DealerKnows team a way to, not only gauge progress, but identify training needs. Keep in mind that while I may be in dealership CRM’s daily, the leads I grade are selected at random.

Today, I came across a lead from Team Chevrolet, a DealerKnows Consulting client located in Salisbury, NC. The lead follow-up process started off in the same way that most others do.

This one, however, had a twist.

The BDC agent, Holly Wedge, was able to contact the customer on day three after performing all of the processes up to that point. On that call, the customer indicated that he would like to come in, but did not know when. Day five rolls around and she continues to follow the scheduled process, calling the customer again and attempting to set an appointment. During that call, however, the customer seemed to be a bit “off” to her. She noted in the CRM (VinSolutions) “he did not sound good. He was short of breath. I told him I was going to let him go so he could call his doctor.” Out of concern, she called again a few minutes later to check on him and got his voicemail. At that point, fearing that the customer was in danger, she decided to call 911. The emergency dispatch indicated they would send someone to check on the individual. A short while later, the responders called her back and informed her that the customer was OK, but that they needed to take him to the hospital. A few days passed and the BDC agent decided to call the customer to see how he was doing. The customer told her that he was feeling much better and thanked her deeply for helping him. He informed her that once he was finished with his appointment at the VA, he would call her and come in.

One of the core elements in the DealerKnows’ process is sending a personal value proposition. They instruct dealers to put a face with a name and reinforce the fact that they are dealing with a real person… someone attempting to be an advocate in their vehicle search. It’s far too common for consumers to get barraged by multiple dealers when submitting inquiries. These can become overwhelming and, all too often, are very similar and contain messages that boil down to:

“We have the best price.”

Yet dealers wonder why consumers seem to be focused on “best price”. It’s because that’s what they’re selling. Sure, consumers don’t want to be gouged. They want a fair price and a good buying experience. Many times, however, all they have are templated emails from anonymous dealership employees. With no value propositions, there is little else for consumers to go by when deciding on from whom to purchase. By attempting to personalize your people to your customer, though, it’s possible a more fulfilling relationship can be created without price being a chief concern. At the very least, it allows the dealership (and salesperson) to differentiate themselves and be memorable to the online shopper.

This BDC agent didn’t have to call 911. She could’ve easily moved on to the next To-Do list task and went about her day. But she didn’t. Her empathetic and prompt response could very easily have saved a Salisbury resident’s life. Regardless of the individual’s need for medical assistance, the fact remains that she cared. She made an unrequested effort to assist another human being that could be in need. She was a true advocate.

Car dealerships get a bad reputation in the media all of the time. Perhaps these news outlets should consider the fact that there are real people who do care about customers, opposed to perpetuating negative stereotypes. Car dealers today are not the car dealers from the movies. They are upstanding businesses that give back to their communities, employ their neighbors, and serve their clients. Dealerships know that if they treat customers poorly, they won’t survive. Are there exceptions? Yes. In today’s hyper-connected world, however, these “exceptions” are just that. Exceptions.

This lone BDC agent likely secured a loyal customer with the very simple act of being human and helping someone in need. This customer’s friends and family have probably already heard this story. They’ve probably shared it with their friends. Once this customer recovers and continues his car shopping, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to recognize where he’ll be doing business: Team Chevrolet. Moreover, it could be surmised that one selfless act of caring creates much more than a loyal customer, but a brand advocate. The butterfly effect from her actions could prove to be worth more than any marketing message or discount.

Be your customers’ advocate. Show them you care and they will never leave. Believe that.

DJ Snyder
When you compete on price alone you will eventually lose. Great article Arnold.
Arnold Tijerina
Thanks, DJ! (Sorry for the delayed response)

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